Author Jenness Walker is happy to be part of the Steeple Hill family. Her story, Déjà Vu, which won first place in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest, is an upcoming Love Inspired Suspense release.
By day, Jenness cleans houses; by night, she writes award-winning romance. She finds inspiration in cheesecake, chocolate and her beverage of choice, Mountain Dew.
Jenness is married to a website designer/computer guru. They have two beautiful children (of the laptop variety—not babies) named Cindy (short for Hyacinth) and Igger. They also have a part-time dog and a love for picnicking with subs from the local deli. Home is a bit of property in sunny Florida.
And now, join me as we embark on an adventure—getting to know more about this talented author and her debut novel.
•Jenness, with a minor in creative writing, I’d guess you’ve been interested in crafting fiction for some time. When did you begin writing your first novel? What led you to write romance?
I’ve been writing short stories and scenes from longer ones all my life, but I began writing my first novel my senior year of college. Not sure exactly why I started then, since I was student teaching, doing correspondence courses, and figuring out how to be a wife. 🙂 But I had to know if I could really write a book clear through—kind of important for someone who always dreamed of being a novelist. It took over a year, but I did it. Most of what I read has at least a little bit of romance in it, so it was natural to write it.
•I read that you’ve completed four stories and have three more underway. You write for multiple sub-genres, having taken first place in the Genesis Romantic Suspense category in 2008 and third in the Chick/Mom/Hen/Lady Lit category with Bliss in 2007 with co-author Tracy Bowen. What is it about those sub-genres that appeal to you? Do you write in others? Now that you’ve sold a romantic suspense, will you focus your attention on that category?
I love different kinds of books, depending on my mood, so I guess that’s why my ideas are all over the map. But for now what I’m doing is limiting myself to writing light-hearted stuff with Tracy, romantic suspense for Steeple Hill, and snatching a few moments here and there to work on some serious full-length ideas that won’t leave me alone.
•Writing a novel can be a huge undertaking for any writer, but working with a co-author adds another set of considerations. How do you and Tracy decide who does what? Who has final say when decisions have to be made? Have you continued to collaborate, or are you concentrating on your solo stories?
Tracy and I still work together—we’re writing a new story while we wait to hear back about Bliss. We really love writing together, and our system seems to work well. We brainstorm the basic plot together, and then Tracy writes the bare bones of a section and sends it to me. I tweak it and flesh it out before I send it back to her. Then, when the story is done, we have a weekend editing retreat.
So far, we’ve agreed on almost everything, but when decisions have to be made, we take turns having the final say. Besides just enjoying the whole working relationship with Tracy, co-authoring humorous stories gives me a much-needed change of pace from the more intense stuff I usually write.
•When you and Tracy heard your name announced at the 2007 ACFW Genesis Awards Ceremony, you must have been so excited. What went through your mind? Your success continued. In 2008, you made the stroll to the stage once again, this time on your own to accept first place in your category. Were you just as excited as the year before or even more so?
In many ways, I was probably more excited about the 2007 contest. Tracy and I hadn’t been working together very long, and as the more experienced writer, I was so afraid that I was leading her astray. So, placing in the contest helped to assure me that I wasn’t letting her down and that we made a good team. On the other hand, I was so glad we didn’t place first, because I didn’t have a speech prepared and was petrified I’d get up front and forget everything but my name. It’s happened before. 🙂
So, last year the nervousness about giving a speech kind of outweighed the excitement of winning first. The speech ended up going okay, except of all the many people (and even laptops!) that I thanked, I forgot to mention my agent. Still apologizing for that one. I love you, Tamela! 🙂
Both wins were an honor. The coolest thing about placing was when I found out the winners were listed on the CBD website. That was special because I’d been promising my dad ever since I was ten or so that someday I’d be in that catalog. So, making it to the website brought me a step closer to fulfilling that promise.
•I’m sure 2008 will hold a special place in your memories as being the year of milestones. You took that first in the Genesis, but that was but a precursor of even greater things to come. You got a ginormous Christmas present this past December. You got The Call! I can’t get my fill of call stories, so please share yours. Where were you when it came? How did you react? What did you do to celebrate?
Truth is, I was in the shower when my cell phone rang. Later, I checked the message and saw it was from my agent, but I resisted the urge to call her right back until I was ready for the day. I had a good guess why she’d called and wasn’t sure if I’d run outside and jump up and down or what, so I figured being presentable would probably be the best plan of action. When I called her back, the line was busy. Go figure.
To celebrate, I ran to Wendy’s and bought myself a Frosty Float. Ha! But later, when I got my first check, my husband took me to Cheesecake Factory for lunch. I’m going to have to sell more books just so I can go there more often. 🙂
•I smiled when I saw on your blog that you’re “a list person,” since I’m one too. How does this aspect of your personality work its way into your writing? Are you a plotter who completes a story outline, creates exhaustive character charts, and meticulously documents her research in alphabetized files? Or do you forgo your natural tendencies and allow your hero and heroine to take over, leading to unexpected twists and turns?
Actually, I don’t do well with outlines or charts. They intimidate me. I jot down ideas as they come, I sometimes write scenes out of order … I’m really not a very organized person (just ask my husband), so my fascination with lists might just be an extension of the compulsion to write. 🙂
My favorite part of writing is when I’m trucking along, doing my thing, and all of a sudden something clicks—the light bulb moment where I see exactly how one thread fits into another, or how the ending ties up the story in a way that’s better than anything I could have planned beforehand. Absolutely love that feeling
•Please tell us about your debut novel, Déjà Vu.
Déjà Vu is kind of a book-within-a-book. A best-selling thriller pits an evil man against a random woman in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse sure to hit the big screen someday. But first it’s played out in real life when a fan becomes obsessed. The target is MacKenzie. Cole figures out what’s going on, and in a race against time, he and Kenzie try to discover the villain’s identity. But when the trap fails, they realize their adversary is no longer going by the book. How will the story end?
Déjà Vu, a Love Inspired Suspense, is scheduled to release in October.
•Jenness, here’s a fun question for you. You’ve had a positive experience working with your co-author, Tracy, and have seen the value of collaboration. If you were given the opportunity to choose any author, past or present, with whom to write a book, whom would it be and what would the story be about?
That’s a hard one! So many favorites to choose from … I’m afraid I would be too intimidated to work with most established authors at this point. But if I could just borrow a pinch of their strengths … I’d take Charles Martin’s talent for creating vivid word pictures, Dean Koontz’s ability to add touches of humor and still keep the nail-biting tension, Kristen Heitzmann’s skill for making her characters grab your heart and hang on even after you close the book … Oh, there are so many more I’d like to learn from. But work with …? Give me a few more years of practice first. 🙂
It’s been great having you as my guest, Jenness. And now, in closing, is there a final comment you’d like to make or a question you’d like to ask?
I’m taking an informal poll. 🙂 In a mystery or suspense, do you like reading the bad guy’s point-of-view so you have insider information on his diabolical plan? Or would you prefer to know he’s out there somewhere but be surprised along with the other characters about who he is and what he’s going to do next?
Thanks so much for having me, Keli!
Learn More About Jenness
Visit her Web site: www.jennesswalker.com
Friend her on Facebook – Jenness Walker
Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win!
I’ll choose a winner from those who leave a comment for Jenness on 3/12 or 13 (and include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share), and will post the winner’s name on 3/14.
The winner is Cathy West. She had her choice of one of these elegant pocket note pads from Punch Studio. Each matchbook-style pad with magnetic closure is 3 x 4 inches.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and March 31. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On April 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)